Daedelus – Bespoke (Ninja Tune/Border) CD REVIEW

When Daedelus debuted back in the early noughties, I viewed him as a more desiccated, dissident variant on Prefuse 73. That line won’t mean much to those who haven’t followed the work of hip-hop-influenced electronic artists during the past 10 years, but what the hell. Prefuse 73 produced some of the most groove-worthy electronic sounds of the first few years of the 21st Century, while Daedelus appeared to crank that aesthetic up a few notches, while incorporating the Ninja Tune label’s irreverent sample-cut-slice-splice-and-dice approach to reinterpreting music’s history.
His early albums were frequently infuriating, due to their lack of compositional development, but also entertaining, provocative, and presented new ways of looking at sound art.
But it’s now 2011, and I’ve got a few problems with Bespoke, the latest Daedelus “masterwork”.
First, the good: For it’s initial three tracks, Bespoke is hugely promising. ‘Tailor-Made’ is a ravishing take on disco, a mutant variety that throws in a bit of acid-jazz and leaves you begging for more. ‘Sew, Darn, Mend’ is even better. Unlike his sample-raiding past, it sounds like he’s got real instruments on board and it’s rich, cohesive, with a gorgeous keyboard motif. Making out like an old romantic movie theme, but with turbo-charged drums, it then shifts gear half-way through, allowing Daedelus to indulge in some entertaining studio skullduggery. ‘Penny Loafers’ follows, and is a comparative disappointment, but it features the vocally exceptional Inara George (of The Bird & The Bee), which is enough to keep me listening.
Second, the bad: From then on, it’s pretty much all downhill. It’s as if Daedelus has ingested a mind-wrecking substance, and tried to make a record while tripping on it. ‘One And Lonely’ features Amir Yaghami singing like Morrissey, but the music is a mess. ‘Suit Yourself’, with its wretched horn sample and tinny drums, just sounds wrong. ‘What Can You Do’ never resolves its elements, sounding like a jazzy grooves trying hard to be a song, but remaining unfocussed. ‘French Cuffs’ sounds like three different songs pumping through the walls of a nightclub at the same time. Let me out of here! And on it goes, digging a bigger hole for itself with every successive track.
From a promising plunderphonic pioneer, Daedelus has degenerated into a producer who can’t seem to create a sonic picture worth even bending one ear for. GARY STEEL
Music = 2.5/5
Sound = 2.5/5

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